Food Preparation And Serving

Do you have a passion for food? Do you dream of wearing chef whites or create elaborate cocktails in your spare time? Whether you wish to start as a cook or serve as a boss—or even if you have no culinary talents whatsoever--there are many opportunities to work in a lively, always-changing industry.

If you need flexible work hours or do not have a degree in hand, this industry provides opportunities for less conventional or structured work. Anyone with an understanding of how restaurants, food prep, customer service, or bartending work can be eligible for jobs, making it easier to pick up work than jobs in other categories. With the fluidity of job opportunities in this category comes a downside—it’s not uncommon for restaurants to lay off workers because it is not pulling in enough business. Not every restaurant is a success, but there are always more opportunities opening around the corner.

To thrive in the semi-organized chaos of the Michelin-starred restaurant world, you need a delicate palate and nerves of steel. To thrive in the kitchen anywhere, you need a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. Whether working at a franchise, a food truck, or three Michelin star restaurant, experience and competence will take you far. And in this industry, perhaps more than any other, performance matters. A crucial aspect of this is customer service, and few occupations give such direct and immediate feedback. Wages and tips vary widely depending on the location and niche or the bar or restaurant. (The local bar in a small town won’t provide the income that the bartender of a big city nightclub earns.)

Depending on your position, your duties may include:

  • Taking detailed food and drink orders and accurately communicating them to the kitchen and bar staff
  • Preparing food and drinks from an extensive menu, the recipes of which must be known backwards and forwards.
  • Maintaining high standards of order and cleanliness in the kitchen and dining space.
  • Managing and coordinating a team of waitstaff and kitchen employees during hectic and high-pressure business hours.
  • Ensuring that the bar, restaurant, or facility adheres to all state and federal health and business regulations
  • Hiring, training, supervising, and evaluating employees
  • Interacting with customers, fulfilling their orders and requests, ensuring their overall experience with the food and environment is positive.
  • Keeping accounts in order, ordering supplies, managing goods, and staying up-to-date with the bookkeeping.

There is wide variety of opportunities here because it is a flexible industry for employment. New restaurants open and others close and there are usually other possibilities for work nearby. Because of the nature of the industry, jobs are not as permanent or guaranteed as jobs in other categories. However, starting or stopping work can be quick when needed. Often people work as servers, bartenders, or kitchenstaff casually to pay the bills while in school or taking care of other expenses, and others devote themselves whole-heartedly to forging a career.

The workers can be divided into two general categories: those who are directly involved with the food, and those who are not. Chefs, prep cooks, and bartenders make the dishes and drinks. Training and formal education are available but there is not necessarily a correct path to success in these positions. It is not uncommon for a successful executive chef to have started working as a dishwasher and have had no formal training. Similarly, managers and owners of restaurants have often worked in different positions in the industry for years and have the opportunity or backing to be promoted or start their own business.

Servers, waiters, and related staff interact with the customer and act as the go-between for him or her and the cooks. For this group, no formal education or training is required, and training on the job is how most people learn the ropes. The style of manners and interaction may vary depending on the kind of restaurant and the kind of customer but the basic skills remain the same



Employment opportunities are projected to grow at about the average rate for all occupations or lower, depending on the specific job. There is a great deal of turnover for this industry, so every year cooks, bartenders, and waitstaff leave the business and go elsewhere. In other words, the burnout rate is high. This is balanced by how well the economy performs, because in tighter times fewer people can afford more expensive meals out. It’s also possible that technology will step in more to digitalize the customer service side of business, where ordering and payment can be done through a touchscreen and therefore reduce the number of servers.

  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Bartenders Bartenders

Bartenders mix drinks and serve them directly to customers or through wait staff.'

Less than high school $18,900
Chefs and head cooks Chefs and head cooks

Chefs and head cooks oversee the daily food preparation at restaurants or other places where food is served. They direct kitchen staff and handle any food-related concerns.'

High school diploma or equivalent $42,480
Cooks Cooks

Cooks prepare, season, and cook a wide range of foods. This may include soups, salads, entrees, and desserts.'

No Formal Education Is Required $20,550
Food and beverage serving and related workers Food and beverage serving and related workers

Food and beverage serving and related workers perform a variety of customer service, food preparation, and cleaning duties in restaurants, cafeterias, and other eating and drinking establishments.'

Less than high school $18,400
Food preparation workers Food preparation workers Food preparation workers perform many routine tasks under the direction of cooks, chefs, or food service managers. Food preparation workers prepare cold foods, slice meat, peel and cut vegetables, brew coffee or tea, and perform many other food service tasks.' Less than high school $19,300
Waiters and waitresses Waiters and waitresses

Waiters and waitresses take orders and serve food and beverages to customers in dining establishments.'

Less than high school $18,540

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